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Building blocks of nationhood: A blueprint for new Nigeria

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Building blocks of nationhood: A blueprint for new Nigeria
Nigerian Flag

By Tunde Bakare

When our nation attained independence on October 1, 1960, it was with fervent faith in the possibilities of a great nation that our founding fathers lowered the British flag and hoisted the Green-White-Green. Their dream of a great nation was etched in the lyrics of our founding national anthem, the second stanza of which states:

Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour’d,
And this we count as gain,
To hand on to our children
A banner without stain.

In the past week, we witnessed with great sorrow the desecration of our nationhood as Nigeria’s armed forces stained the banner of our nationhood, the Nigerian flag, with the blood of our children, the Nigerian youth, to whom our founding fathers charged us to handover a banner without stain.

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It is, therefore, with a heavy heart over the current state of our nation, but with resilient hope in the possibilities of a New Nigeria, that I bring you this State of the Nation Broadcast originally intended to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary. In this moment of despair and sobriety, I have titled my address ‘The Building Blocks of Nationhood: A Blueprint for the New Nigeria’ because this dark chapter of our history is not how Nigeria’s story ends.

The birth pangs of nationhood
All across the nation, there is a wave of people movement. It is a wave of citizen engagement championed by the so-called ‘ordinary Nigerian’ who has proven in extraordinary terms to be by no means ordinary. It began in Edo State with an awakened and resolute electorate defying the political establishment to make their voices heard and their votes count. In the past couple of weeks, that wave has been transformed into a tsunami of people movement led by our young people who have had enough of the horrendous brutality of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). I believe that this wave of people movement is the physical manifestation of the birth pangs heralding the New Nigeria.

As I observed the EndSARS protests, I could not but conclude that we are witnessing the crescendo of an era and the beginning of another.

Ten years ago, when we convened civil society organisations under the umbrella of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), our objective was not to be the voice of the people, but to restore the voices of the voiceless in a nation where social mobilisation had been frozen for too long at that time.

Ten years later, the EndSARS protest has assured me that a generation of Nigerians has arisen, armed with clear and unmistakable voices, refusing to dim their lights or turn down the volume of their requests, because we have entered the era of ‘Soro Soke.’ I salute the courage of this unbreakable generation; I salute the resilience of every Nigerian youth, named and unnamed, who have stood up to be counted in this momentous era.

A Solemn Remembrance
We remember at this time the heartbreaking tales of extortion, torture, rape, and murder that drove our young people to the streets in the first place. We remember Linda Nkechi Igwetu who, in 2018, was reported to have been shot in a friend’s car by SARS operatives the day before her passing out parade, after serving her nation as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja. We remember Stella Ifeoma Abugu, another corps member, reported to have been raped and murdered while being unlawfully detained by SARS officials in Abuja.

Our hearts bleed at the memory of the peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate who were shot and killed on Tuesday, October 20, 2020,by the Armed Forces of the Nigerian state as they held up the Nigerian flag; young compatriots pledging allegiance to ‘one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity’ as they sang our national anthem in their final moments. Let us observe a moment of silence for these Nigerians and many others, named and unnamed, who have been unjustly killed by agents of the Nigerian state. May their souls rest in peace and may God comfort their families.

In like manner, we also remember those unsung heroes of the Nigeria Police Force who, despite being part of an institution that has the worst reputation for corruption and ineptitude in the Nigerian public sector, serve with remarkable professionalism and bravery, sometimes doing so at the cost of their lives.

Ultimately, the Government is Liable
Any misuse of that power by the police, especially to repress and oppress any citizen, is ultimately an abuse of the power conferred by the people on their government. This is why the widespread protests against police brutality are justified.

I acknowledge the efforts made by the government to address the protesters’ demands, but the government must move from commitment to full compliance in the implementation of the 5-for-5 demands of the End SARS protesters and in overhauling our policing architecture. Above all, I strongly recommend that President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full weight of the law.

The officers who carried out such wicked acts should also be prosecuted under international legal standards.

Unfortunately, the protests took a sad turn, from the attacks on protesters by thugs, to the infiltration of protests by hoodlums unleashing mayhem in cities and communities.

Furthermore, in the words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ): “The poor suffer twice at the rioter’s hands: First, when his destructive fury scars their neighbourhood; second, when the atmosphere of accommodation and consent is changed to one of hostility and resentment.”

Unfortunately, this is where peaceful protests hijacked by thugs and hoodlums have landed us. Be that as it may, governments at the federal and state levels credence to the conclusion of protesters that the government itself was behind these smokescreen tactics to discredit the protests. By its actions and inactions, the government has burned the bridge of trust. It is my hope that this address will help rebuild that bridge and resolve the issues in the interest of the Nigerian nation.

Apologies to a Generation
Before I proceed to unveil the building blocks of nationhood, permit me to address an issue that is heavy upon my heart, for we cannot proceed with laying the building blocks of a new nation without addressing the issue of how older generations of Nigerians have failed our youth.

*Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare is Serving Overseer, The Citadel Global Community Church, CGCC, and Convener, Save Nigeria Group.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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